what kind of volunteering is most helpful?

A reader writes:

I know you’ve spoken extensively about how volunteer work is important and can lend a substantive note to your resume and work experience. But can you discuss a little what kinds of volunteer work are more “important,” skills-wise, for employers? Is ten years of driving for Meals on Wheels going to be taken the same as five years of being a volunteer front-desk person at a hospital, or one year of volunteering with a political organization on their social media front? Is some volunteer experience “worth” more than others to employers, or does it depend totally on what the employer is looking for?

It really varies, depending on the types of roles you’re applying for. In general, volunteer work that’s related to the job you’re applying for is best, which for most jobs means that office work is better than something like driving for Meals on Wheels. But there are exceptions to that; if you were applying for a job working with the elderly or disabled, for instance, that Meals on Wheels experience might be more useful.

In general, the more your volunteer work relates in some way to the jobs you’re applying to, the better. Generally that’s through the specific skills you use (like your example of social media work), but sometimes it can be through the commitment you demonstrate to a particular issue or area (for example, volunteering on campaigns can be useful when applying for advocacy work).

There are also hiring managers who simply like to see community involvement, and in those cases what you did matters less than the fact that you did it — but the majority of the time, volunteering has the most impact on your job prospects when it demonstrates skills that you are key to the work you’re applying for.

Of course, there’s also a totally different way that volunteering can help in a job search: by  building your network. It’s still ideal if the work you’re doing relates to your field in some way (since building contacts in your field is generally more helpful than building them outside your field), but having a network that isn’t field-specific can still end up being enormously helpful when it comes to connecting you with others.

{ 55 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam*

    Yep, any volunteer gig that requires a certain amount of thought and skill will be helpful than more general stuff. But even with the less technical posts you can still show some benefits.

    I currently volunteer for an animal shelter, my main duties being passing out the chunky slop that is apparently dog food and cleaning out their kennels while they’re out on their walks. Unless I’m applying to work in an elementary school cafeteria this experience isn’t likely to do much for my resume on its own.

    HOWEVER, I’ve been with the organization for over a year now, so it shows I can commit to something even though it’s neither glamorous nor paid, as well as that I’m a more well-rounded individual and can handle loud energetic “clients” who don’t always listen very well.

    There’s value in every experience if you think about it!

  2. Chriama*

    I’ve been teaching sunday school since as I was 14. Since I’m only 21 now, employers have remarked on that committment even though it’s not related to my work in IT. When I have significant work experience I’ll take it off, but right now it’s still a valuable part of my resume (and I know people might be hesitant to include religious affiliations on their resume, but a hiring manager who’d reject me because of that is not someone I want to work for. I don’t go evangalizing around the office, but I’m not going to deny something that’s a fundamental part of who I am).

    1. BadPlanning*

      Speaking as an IT person, wrangling little kids sounds like excellent skills to transfer on the job.
      “Yes, you have to play nice others.”
      “Indeed, that’s an interesting story, but let’s get back to the topic.”
      “For this project we’ll work as a team. Yes, with people.”
      “I know you want to do the project we did last week, but we’re doing a new one now.”
      “Don’t chew on that.”

      1. Chriama*

        Haha yes! Actually I spend a lot of time telling people that they have to wait in line for me to fix their problem (yes, this affects 1 of your most valued customers but I’m currently working on something to prevent all our servers from exploding. Wait your turn!)

      2. Judy*

        Yep, lots of cat-herding in any software development.

        If you haven’t seen it, be sure to look up the EDS Cat Herding commercial from the Superbowl a number of years ago.

  3. DanielleR*

    One of the more oddest “jobs” I have had which was an internship as a Chaplain is something that tends to be eye catching. One its full of customer-service skills. You are taught to work with all sorts of individuals, in crisis situations, along with learning database management with Electronic Health Records etc. Usually if I do get a call back, with that on my resume, it makes me stick out not because I look like a “Jesus Freak” but because it is something that shows I devoted a great deal of time and energy when i was unemployed gaining skills and doing something meaningful.

    I think one thing that people forget sometimes is that Volunteering is GREAT to build skills but the other way around of looking at this is that volunteering should also be something meaningful for you. If you just look for a volunteer position for skills or to show you have the skills, and not really think if working some place is going to make you happy, you won’t last long. In a paid position it is different because you do have an initiative at the end of the day- you get a paycheck. As a volunteer unless you have a position that has a stipend (which doesn’t happen unless it is a live-in volunteer position) you don’t have that initiative to keep you going.

  4. JayDee*

    In some fields volunteering of any sort may be as useful for the connections it brings as for the skills learned or used in the volunteer work.

  5. Anon Accountant*

    I’d love to volunteer my services somewhere but many organizations want paid bookkeeping staff which I understand why they’d prefer that.

    I’m going to start working on blankets for Project Linus because it was the most flexible of the local organizations I’d researched.

    1. CC*

      Yeah, not much call for volunteer engineering either. I’ve been volunteering with a housing charity and an ecological stewardship charity. Not helping my engineering skills any, but it’s good work.

  6. Elysian*

    For me, there’s only one way I can look at this. Volunteer for something you care about and want to help with. Volunteer if you have skills that someone needs and you can help. I know lots of people volunteer to further their career goals or fill a gap where they’re unemployed, but I just can’t get behind that kind of volunteering; it feels too selfish, and that’s something I feel strongly that volunteering should not be. I know that might make me unpopular, but I hate to see something that should come from the heart transformed into something only for a resume builder. If you love it or if you have a skill to offer, then it is helpful volunteer work.

    1. DanielleR*

      Elysian I agree. I have always viewed volunteering as something to do that is selfless. I don’t go into volunteering anything because I think its going to build my resume or make me look super awesome.

    2. Chriama*

      Meh, I feel like the impact is more important than the intent. If you’re volunteering selfishly, are you more likely to do a bad job or stop with no notice, leaving the organization in a tight spot? Maybe. So I wouldn’t encourage people to volunteer JUST for the career experience unless they’re prepared to respect it like a paid job, but I also wouldn’t be happy with a super-passionate but flaky person who “cares” but doesn’t actually improve the organization.

      Also, it’s not like volunteer organizations can’t be more picky. I’ve heard lots of commentors mentioning how hard it can be to get a volunteer gig, especially at a prestigious non-profit.

        1. Chriama*

          Ok, your moral opposition makes sense. My view is moral as well as practical because I care more about impact than intent when it comes to the non-profit world. I don’t like people who help others just to soothe their own egos (not saying that you do!_. There are a lot of poorly-run non-profits who don’t make a lot of impact because they’d rather have their name in lights than focus on doing good, and sometimes people care more about how the “mission” of the non-profit makes them look than how it affects the cause they’re supporting.

          1. DanielleR*

            Soothing the ego… meaning that if someone volunteers that is really passionate about the mission, that may not have a lot of experience doing a certain type of work, the impact isn’t as great as someone who offers their services but really has no idea what they are working on? The downfall of the “lets see the impact rather than intent” is that yes you may be getting top-notched work but the person may actually have literally no idea what they are working on and WHO it is impacting. It is like someone talking to me about disability advocacy, who knows how to run a volunteer program, but has never had a disability nor has never been in a position of discrimination about a disability telling me I should be optimistic about my own future. Taking it with a grain of salt.

            1. Chriama*

              Of course it’s best to have competent, dedicated people. But by “soothing the ego” I was thinking of people who think their passion for the mission is a substitute for doing good work, or who do good work but would do *better* work if their egos weren’t in the way (e.g. by partnering with another organization, or focusing on something less glamorous but still important – think of organizations that will build a brand new school next to a falling-down school built by a different organization years ago. Maintaining a school isn’t as sexy as building a new one, but it’s just as valuable).

        2. Clerica*

          This article is the second best of all things. (The first was the Teach for America article they did).

      1. Bwmn*

        I used to work for a tri-lingual nonprofit that provided free legal aid to a vulnerable population (not in the US). We would get emails all the time from very passionate people, very interested in our legal work who wanted to volunteer. However, usually their specific languages and skills made them entirely inappropriate to volunteer to do anything.

        On the other hand, the spouse of a board member volunteered one day a week for years and was only doing it because her spouse knew she had a skill that would benefit the organization, and everyone knew that. This was clearly not something she was doing with a warm or invested heart – but she was reliable and provided a valuable skill to the organization.

        I didn’t love spending time with her, but compared to a volunteer who’s primary motivation is enthusiasm and interest – I’d take that any day of the week. In my experience the truly emotionally invested volunteers are far more likely to be flakey, especially if they find a volunteering cause that gives them more emotional satisfaction. Whereas someone volunteering for a resume builder is more likely to treat the position like a job and be reliable and professional (because they want a good reference). Maybe at the gates of heaven this kind of intent matters, but not at a lot of nonprofits HR departments.

        1. Chriama*

          “Emotional satisfaction” is a better phrase than “soothing your ego”. I’ll go with that from now on. I guess my point is, when it comes to non-profits, I only care about the bottom line: How effective were you at helping this organization meet its goals? All else being *truly* equal I’d obviously want the person who cares more, but things are rarely truly equal.

          1. DanielleR*

            Chriama your perspective may probably suit you more for for-profit businesses to be honest. I can understand the business sense, I have a business degree, however I have found that people tend to have a “focus”. Some are family focused, some are career focused, some aren’t career focused but more money focused and willing on doing what they do to make the most money, some are humanity focused, etc. I know VERY few people who go into a non-profit or volunteering for the money. Is money important? absolutely. Is money the end all be all? No.

            Good example that I have had to go through. I was volunteering as a chaplain at a hospital for a while. I have very high-functioning autism, you wouldn’t know it unless I told you that I had autism or knew the small quirks to look for. I spent a year volunteering, without really talking to the manager of the department, and although my supervisor had some idea that I had Autism I came in every week, I have a very compassionate soul, and I worked with some patients who were long term and had given up some hope of getting out of the hospital or who were very rundown after being there for 200+ days because there was no where else to put them.

            I got into a program that was ran by the manager and part of my application process basically required me to state I had autism because I had to write a biography of my life and significant moments. I was in a group of individuals who had not volunteered at the hospital, who did not have a disability, still gave the same amount for the group time of six months. The end of the program comes and I am told that there are some concerns because of having a disability, and how I process information, that I shouldn’t be chaplaining at the hospital. Now I didn’t go after the manager who made this decision with a disability suit, I could have and I could have probably won my case, but I have some respect for the individual who is a priest. However despite having the passion that I had, the amount of energy I put into my role because with a disability I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to prove myself worth, my passion was viewed as me really just trying to overcompensate.

            The bottom line being the individual without disability doesn’t take as much time to manage as the person with the disability. Those “resources” aka time can be used in other places.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think you might be misinterpreting Chriama’s comment. Her point is that results matter more than appearances or feel-good fuzzies. And that’s absolutely correct! Nonprofits have an obligation to take the route that will get them the best results toward their mission — in fact, I’d argue that they have a higher obligation than for-profit businesses to have a laser-like focus on results and the bottom line, because what’s at stake is often so important.

          2. Bwmn*

            As someone who works for a nonprofit – ( it’s definitely not in lieu of payment) – ’emotional satisfaction’ and ‘soothing my ego’ often have a pretty fuzzy divide in terms of why it’s my line of employment. So I’m not going to pretend that doesn’t factor into the choice. But when I was in grad school, I was very focused on how my interning/volunteering would result in a good reference. And that meant I was really dedicated to positions where I knew I was getting solid experience and would get a good reference.

            However, now that I have the kind of job/career tract that I want – when I volunteer, I really want the experience to be emotionally satisfying/sooth my ego. I know enough about nonprofits and the process, that it’s not like I’m showing up for 2 shifts and then quitting – but I am being really choosey for the right fit. If I do find an organization that’s a good fit for me, I’d be a great volunteer. But for an average nonprofit – a college student looking to build their resume is probably the more reliable bet during an initial screening.

  7. Volunteer Advocate*

    * Volunteering at a hospital from ages 14-16 got me my first paid job at age 16: Working in the kitchen (“Dietary”) at that same hospital. I returned to that hospital later and worked full-time as a medical transcriptionist, too.

    * Volunteering as a “word processing operator” for a political group got me my first paid position in the same field (after having had no other experience in that field before volunteering). I built on this experience to eventually become a secretary, a legal transcriptionist, and then a medical transcriptionist.

    * Volunteering as a computer programmer and web developer helped me to get my first programming job six months BEFORE graduating with an Associates degree.

    * After being laid off as a programmer and not being able to find any other IT position in the country (this is after the IT bubble burst), working as an IT-related Peace Corps Volunteer in another country earned me two more full-time, IT-related positions in the US after I returned.

    * And volunteering at a library while waiting for his work visa got my immigrant husband his first paid job ever in the US (working for a retail chain, but it was the overall US job experience that he wanted – and earned – as a volunteer).

    Although there are nay-sayers about using volunteer work on a resume, I will always be a firm believer that volunteer work can be just as valuable as paid work experience, especially if applying in a new field or if jobs are hard to find.

    Thank you for this post, Alison!

    1. the gold digger*

      I had a hard time getting my first job after returning to the States after two years as a business Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, but ever since then, I would not have gotten any of the jobs I have gotten without that international experience and the abilities I developed there to work across cultures and get results across cultures.

    2. Lizzie*

      RPCV Namibia! Even as I gain more US-based work experience, this stays on my resume. It’s a great way to showcase my flexibility and cross-cultural skills, plus it makes a terrific icebreaker. Everyone loves a good hitch hiking story.

  8. AnonEMoose*

    I’m not looking to leave my current job just now, but if I did need to update my resume, I wonder about how to put my volunteer work with a local science fiction convention on a resume without getting rejected immediately for having “weird” hobbies. But I’ve been volunteering with the organization in various capacities for more than 15 years now, in various positions of mostly increasing responsibilities, and I’m now on the board of directors (yes, the convention is an actual non-profit with bylaws, an elected board, and so on).

    My responsibilities include managing the department heads who report to me, and stepping in if they need assistance dealing with issues with any of their subheads or staff members. Board members are also responsible for determining the budgets for the various departments, deciding the overall direction of the organization, and so on. And most people think “science fiction convention,” think about a bunch of geeks getting together for the weekend, and don’t realize that we’re talking about an event with nearly 7000 attendees, multiple programming tracks, more than one film room, an art show, and more.

    We have to get a temporary license from the local Health Department because we serve food. We negotiate the contract with our host hotel and the ones that provide sleeping rooms (the main hotel doesn’t have enough rooms for everyone). And there’s always a board member “on duty” at any point the convention is running, to deal with escalated issues for which that level of “clout” (for lack of a better word) is needed. This is a commitment on the order of at least 200 hours/year, and not being entirely a private person. I mean, it’s not like I’m a celebrity, but anything I say in public can be taken as representing the organization.

    But how would I go about putting that on a resume in such a way that someone who’s not familiar with such a thing would actually “get it”? I don’t think I’d want to work somewhere that would consider it a problem, but even people who are open-minded about it tend to need a lot of explanation and even then I’m not sure they really get it.

    1. CTO*

      I don’t think this is as “weird” as you think it is. Put your board title on your resume with pride and, if relevant, highlight a couple of key accomplishments like:

      -Oversaw 10 subcommittee leaders to produce annual conference for 7000 guests
      -Negotiated contracts and permits to comply with legal and budgetary constraints
      -Led strategic planning process for 3 conferences

      Really, unless the convention title is WAY extreme, I don’t think you really have as much to worry about as you think you do. If you stay focused on your (impressive!) work and not the theme of the event, you’ll look pretty good.

    2. Chriama*

      I think the trick is to focus on transferable skills. You organized a convention that drew x number of people, coordinated x events over x days, oversaw a team of x people, managed a budget of $x, met all legal requirements for permits, arranged media representation, whatever. The fact that you’ve done it for 15 years is also worth mentioning, and you should point out your increasing responsibilities over time.
      I mentioned above that I’ve been teaching Sunday school for a third of my life, and that can be an iffy topic. I think a sci-fi convention is pretty neutral by comparison.

    3. Felicia*

      I’d say the skills/duties are far more important than the subject matter. Also There are a lot of sci fi fans out there. If I saw something like that on a resume, it might make me more likely to hire you :)

    4. Adam*

      Unless your name is affiliated with an organization that’s getting a lot of bad press recently i don’t think it matters that much. I structure my volunteer work just like my regular work – position title, organization name, performed duties, etc. – It just gets put in the Miscellaneous section.

      I think most people probably get that serving on a board, planning/running conventions, and other such activities all require legit work time and varying degrees of expertise, regardless if the subject matter is entertainment based or the more traditional charity variety. Most people shouldn’t be dense enough to discount that kind of valuable experience, and those that do were probably the type to go out of their way to make fun of the AV kids in middle school.

    5. ModernHypatia*

      I do similar stuff (I’ve done both SF community stuff and my religious community with conferences for a few hundred people and public events for a larger number). I do something like CTO suggests – break it down into specific skills that give a sense of scale and duration.

      It’s come up in interviews a few times – I get much more wiggly about the religious conference than the SF stuff, because I’d prefer to not reveal my religion at work, or at least not in that context. (I do have a reference who’s glad to talk about my skills in that area without naming the event, which would reveal the specific religion.) Generally, though, people just find it interesting, and it’s usually pretty clear when I start talking about what I’ve done that I know my stuff, so they’ve gone for other references instead.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        I had a lot of volunteer experience within my religious community in college and before that, and ended up leaving it off completely because I didn’t want to reveal my religion. Do you have any tips on how to include religious volunteer experience without revealing the specific religion? It doesn’t matter any more for those particular experiences, but I intend to volunteer for non-profits that happen to be affiliated with my religion and/or controversial (even if secular) going forward and would like to include that. (I would be willing to work for someone who would reject me based on my religion! So I guess that makes my situation a little different than Chriama’s upthread.)

  9. CTO*

    I’m going to echo others here to emphasize that showing commitment to a volunteer role is really important. I’m not impressed by the one day you volunteered with Habitat for Humanity two years ago. It’s nice and all, but not remotely resume-worthy. But if you can show that you’ve committed to something and volunteer regularly, that’s more impressive. It can also help counteract shorter job tenures by showing that you are indeed capable of sticking with something for a long time. Volunteer service alone won’t overcome a weak job history, but it certainly helps.

    I do a lot of volunteering, but I limit what I put on my resume to a couple of lines at the bottom. What volunteer roles do I choose to highlight? Those that have had a long tenure, impressive roles, are recognizable and respected organizations, and/or demonstrate work-related skills. For instance, I mention that I’m VP of a local board and a blogger for a local policy nonprofit because those talents are important to my work. I include my service with Big Brothers Big Sisters because it’s been for several years, the organization is well-known, and mentoring kids just seems to be thought of very highly. I don’t do any of these activities to build my resume, but if I’m doing them anyway I might as well brag about them.

    I’ve also drawn on my volunteer experiences in interviews, and definitely when performing my job. Sometimes volunteering just gives you the opportunity to use different skills than you do at work; don’t be afraid to highlight that.

    1. Chriama*

      I agree that committment is really important. When I was in high school we had a volunteer hours requirement and some of my friends would do random stuff like keep score at sports games. I always though that it was a little useless to spend volunteer time on something that wouldn’t impress a college recruiter instead of just finding an organization they liked and could stick with for all 3 years of school.

  10. Sharon*

    I’ve been volunteering in dog adoption for about five years now. I have a leadership role in that I’m treasurer, have a board seat, help organize events, screen and mentor adopters, manage volunteers, manage our social media, occasionally foster dogs and recently added webmistress to my pile of hats. It’s a labor of love for me, obviously because it’d be crazy to do that much work unpaid otherwise! Most of the things I’ve learned are obviously soft skills and I think it has brought me a ton of confidence and leadership ability.

    But I don’t put it on my resume after getting mixed responses about the idea. One guy commented that he wouldn’t hire me if it was on my resume because he didn’t want a business analyst with leadership skills. (Sounded like a “shut up and do what I tell you” kind of manager.) Another guy said he wished his people had listed their volunteer work on their resumes so he would have warning about the guy who works on his little league on company time and is always taking time off work to go to practices and games. It sounded so much like the reader can put any twist on it they want that it’s just easier to leave it off, sadly. So I do. (I do have it on my LinkedIn profile, though. I use LI as more of a CV, while my resumes are always tailored to a specific job. Hiring managers and HR are welcome to look me up in LI to get a better picture of me as a whole person.)

    1. DanielleR*

      Just putting my two cents in- the first guy basically sounds like that is a work preference whether or not it is in a formal job situation or a volunteer situation. The second guy seems to have some issues with his employee and should talk to him about the time taken off however if its PTO that the second guy is taking off the employer really has no right to say what he uses him time off for as long as the employee is following company policy FYI.

      1. Adam*

        Agreed. Both examples sound like the poster ran into people who are either bad managers or straight up jerks. I’ve never had anyone tell me any of my volunteer experience was a negative, even if it wasn’t even remotely important in the hiring process.

    2. Chriama*

      I agree, it really sounds like those 2 hiring managers have very specific biases . As long as you don’t gush about the volunteer gig in your interview to the point of ignoring your actual work experience, I think you’re more likely to build a rapport with an interviewer who likes dogs or is impressed by your dedication than you are to repel a weird interviewer who had a bad experience or resents employees who have lives outside of work.

  11. Erin*

    I volunteered abroad for three months in a rain forest conservation reservation. It was in no way relevant to my job path, it was a post-college break from retail work, job searching, and the real world. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

    I put it on my resume and many interviews asked about, both from a job skills POV of what I learned while I was there and from a genuine curiosity of what I did there. It was a great conversation piece, while also allowing me to add more skills to my resume.

    I also volunteered at a theater as a stage manager and techie for several shows where I applied and learned more skills. So I think any kind of volunteering can be used to your benefit. Even if not directly tied to your career, it shows a willingness to get involved with things for reasons besides a paycheck. I think they’ll always be a benefit.

    1. Mouse of Evil*

      I volunteered with a small press the year after I got out of college. Back then, I got more questions in interviews about that job than any of my “real” jobs! After all, everybody knows (more or less) what it’s like to work in fast food in college; not many people know what it’s like to read a publisher’s slush pile. :-)

  12. PuppyPetter*

    big believer in volunteering and adding it to your resume. You never know what your interviewer will ask about / peaks their interest and makes you MEMORABLE!
    Many years ago, I interviewed a young man who listed his Eagle Scout Project on his resume. The bookkeeper of the company mocked it and blew him off. I’ve been involved in scouting since I’ve been a kid, recognized the effort he had put into the task. it got him an interview with me, a great conversation ensued (conversational skills/being able to speak well is important in my line), and I hired him. Was a terrific employee for two years and then went off for his law degree.

    Volunteering while on unemployment shows me you don’t want to just sit home and do nothing; volunteering with a social services entity shows me you care about others. Volunteering with a social group (sci-fi guy I’m looking at you!) tells me you have outside interests, you want to make an effort, you have skills that I may not realize are helpful to your job. Volunteering because it was “required”? I can tell and if you didn’t put your best effort into it and get something out of it, that tells me a lot about your character too.

    Me? I’ve volunteered teaching martial arts to all ages, working on food prep for families affected by AIDS, Habitat for Humanity, working on food drives (think the post office drives & scout drives- sorting and boxing donations), working with service animals, neighborhood cleanups after massive hurricanes… Learned new things at each project (many are ongoing gigs for me), learned new skills that I didn’t think I could do, and met great people along the way.

    1. Erin*

      +1 to everything you said!

      Did you enjoy working for Habitat for Humanity? Getting my first full-time job at the start of the year (as well as starting the process of moving away from my family home) put most of my volunteering on hold for 2014 but I want to get back into it in 2015. Habitat for Humanity was one I was looking into. Would you recommend it?

      1. PuppyPetter*

        Very much so! I learned all sorts of skills that were helpful in my own apartments (okay, rebuilding the foundation to a home by crawling in the lead filled mud wasn’t a skill I needed) and met many different people of all ages and backgrounds.
        Kudos on your first f/t job!

    2. the gold digger*

      Wow. Did the bookkeeper know what a big deal it is to make it to Eagle Scout? I stopped scouting in sixth grade, but even I know that it is super hard to become an Eagle Scout.

      1. PuppyPetter*

        That was part of the problem. She jut pooh-poohed and mocked his efforts – too goody-two shoes in her eyes – and said it wasn’t that hard to get an Eagle. She was raised on rock & roll and drugs (we rarely saw eye to eye and our values were waaaaay different!). Fortunately I did know!

  13. LCL*

    If I was hiring for an admin position, among all the qualified applicants, the person who had done something blue collar long enough to know what manual labor is would get extra points. Like driving for meals on wheels, or helping out at the animal shelter. Because admin work is in the end intended to support the product of the company. It takes office support and hands on production for companies to be successful. People who have done both kinds of work are the best employees.

    1. Anna*

      Not to mention that the volunteer jobs that might have the most to do with your job search are often the positions they’re already paying someone to do, or that you have to volunteer for a good long while to move in to. If you spent five years driving for Meals on Wheels, I would be interested in seeing that for a variety of reasons.

  14. hayling*

    After I moved to a new city and didn’t have a job, I volunteered with the Taproot Foundation on a marketing project (I’m in marketing). It was extremely valuable and gave me something to talk about during job interviews.

  15. Limon*

    I think volunteering is so awesome, just like others above have said. The skills you pick up and the good feelings you get can’t be beat. I have done a ton of volunteering throughout my adult life and always feel a little lost if I am not somehow connected to helping others, or a good cause, in some sort of non-paid way.

    Looking back, I can see how these different volunteer experiences really shaped and changed me in many incredible ways. Currently, I volunteer at a local church run thrift shop. Usually I am folding or sorting clothes or something like that. Often, I just work quietly by myself – and that is sometimes really important. Why do I do it? for the accolades and the prestige? so that people can see me doing it? no, to actually be of service in a way that is often overlooked. And that’s the real gift in being a grateful giver.

    I used to work in medicine and so many pre-meds would pad their experience with ‘volunteer work,’ that was really often just on paper. It was not their passion but a checklist. I try and make sure my gift of time is clean, and just that – a gift.

  16. Kimlet*

    I work at a very well-respected regional non-profit where, according to interviews and cover letters, many people dream of working. I’ve been in positions in both HR (formerly) and the Executive Office (currently). Here, if you’re even remotely qualified and you’ve been a reliable volunteer for our organization, you automatically get an interview when you apply. For many, many of our employees, volunteering, even in positions not directly related to the jobs they applied to, was what made them stand out in a pile of resumes and led to their eventual job offers.

    1. PuppyPetter*

      In the past 5 years at my job, I have hired 5 people for paying jobs who had started out as volunteers for the organization and 3 kids who started as unpaid interns.

  17. HRmeister*

    I’m volunteering as a HR Administrator to eventually gain the experience to become a HR Advisor. I am also working as a PA in a different department of the same organisation so that interviewers will know that I can do the basics. I’m really centred on the idea of volunteer work being related to jobs you go for.

  18. Sam*

    Volunteering can feel great, but really gets to the heart when you have been volunteering at a place for awhile and do not get any jobs there even while networking :( Also, it can really get to the heart when you come back to the same town of this organization after being gone on vacation or an out of town temp job unrelated to field and then some months afterwards express interest in volunteering there, but turned out with being told you not a good fit while still greatly appreciated for such efforts with having not done anything wrong and told you more than welcome to list them as reference.

    How do you deal with such as with encountering issues like these affects trust when wanting to volunteer further or elsewhere with even hurting as should not.

    Where is the law of karma here of good coming back after doing good?



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